10/19/15

20 10 2015

I had to record this date. Maybe because I had “a moment” of crystal clear clarity today.

Today I had my lightbulb moment!! I decided to focus on the women in my life who are powerful, strong, fearless and passionate. I remembered someone who inspired me a long time ago saying to me: “Dream Big!! Be strong and don’t be afraid to live your dreams out loud!” You don’t need anyone to give you permission or hold your hand. Be Strong.” Well, today, I realized that to be strong you have to have courage and to have courage you have to be BRAVE. It’s really quite simple.

I watched something called “Belief”, a documentary on The OWN channel last night. A powerful moment was when a female interviewee said, “What do I believe? I don’t really know what I believe, because I am empty. I am alone. My spirituality is “non existent”. I loved her honesty because I know that we have all felt distant from our spiritual selves at various times of our lives. Belief seems very far away at those times!

And then, hopefully, we find some “thing”. I’m not really sure what to call it. God? Yes. Love? Yes. Passion? Yes. For me, it’s 3 words; God is Love! For me, my Spirit, my Soul comes alive on the streets when I am able to love unconditionally and be loved the same way. Like the 5 homeless, beautiful women we met last week on Search and Rescue who taught me about extreme courage even in spite of extreme hardship.  I guess this girl from South Africa (me) always carried a remnant of the old fear around my neck, like a heavy burden, except the fear was of myself. Today I realized that I have nothing to fear. I can be all I want to be… wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, writer, poet, humanitarian, life coach, social worker, advocate, entrepreneur, dreamer, soul-seeker and freedom fighter. And yes, if I want to, I can even be a bitch. That’s ok too. The strong, powerful women in my life always have my back. They will always be there to remind me by their example, of my strength, my bravery and my grit, and I’m proud to say, my newfound “badassery”… But first, I will sit here quietly, be grateful for my blessed life, and remind myself of what it means to be brave. I hope this reminds you to be brave too!!

10/19/15.

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We did it!

30 08 2015

IMG_2886Cyril turned to me a few days ago and he said to me, “We DID IT!”

What did we do exactly?

Well, the main thing we did was to give our two girls, Courtney and Tayla, aged almost 12, and almost 13, their Batmitzvah. Or plural, Bnot Mitzvah.

But what we really did was a little more than that. As I sit here, today, at the end of August, writing Thank you notes to the people who came and gave and loved us, I feel so much more. There is so much to feel. You see, our ceremony was not traditional, nor was it particularly religious. Our ceremony to mark the girls’ coming of age in the Jewish way, was more about the triumphs than the doctrines, more about the vulnerability than the victory, and more about the service to our community than about the girls’ achievements or status.

Our family came from everywhere. South Africa, Israel, California and Denver. Our house was lit up by love, and I mean that literally. There was this overwhelming sense that despite enormous obstacles we had come together. We all carried our stories of the past few years with us, but we carried those stories bravely. We had fought in wars, and we had been in other kinds of personal wars, but we were all together. WE WERE HERE. TOGETHER. I loved that!

There were Angels in that room as the girls read from the Torah, and I will never forget how Cyril’s late dad, Les, made his presence known. It was awe-inspiring…But that is a story for a different day.

I loved how Courtney spoke about protecting and caring for the orphan, widow and stranger and how she referenced our family’s love for Seattle’s homeless, and how Tayla spoke of caring for animals and taking care of all vulnerable creatures. And then, the family (each one of those called friend/grandparent/aunt/uncle/parent) gave their life wisdom over to the girls.

This was mine:

Good morning family and friends.

Courtney: I’ll never forget the day we heard that we were pregnant with you. After many years of hoping and praying for you, the “day” finally came when daddy and I heard ‘those’ words. You’re going to have a baby. Congratulations!

And from that moment on, the day we held you in our arms: Our tiny 5 pound beauty, YOU were our godgiven gift of everything that is precious and sacred and beautiful in this world.

Tayla: A year and 17 days later, the 2nd light of our lives came along. This baby we called our Zen Baby. She was, as Cyril’s late dad called her, our Smiler… Happy, Calm and Always looking for adventure.

The English names you were given, Courtney and Tayla, seemed to come together, as if you were two halves of a perfect whole. Sometimes I wondered if you were destined to be twins, but instead, you gave us the year in between to prepare us for the Force and Power to be reckoned with that is You Two!!!

Courtney; even though you were a tiny baby, you were talking and walking (actually running) before we knew it. You were always on the go-and boy, did you go!!! Active, strong-willed, determined-A true leader in the making.

And, as you grew, daddy and I noticed something else. You were truly KIND. I have so many stories of your kindness… it would take me hours, so I wont let myself be indulged- Other than to say, YOU CARE DEEPLY about everyone who crosses your path. You always watch out for others, sometimes before yourself, and in so doing, my Baby, I have watched you become someone people love to be around. You have the Social Justice gene, that’s for sure.

I could talk about your accomplishments (many), or how you persevere at your Love Sport, soccer, or how you are the strongest person in life… But this is my Wisdom to you… Here today…

DO NOT FEAR. BE YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT!!!

Yes, you’ll get hurt sometimes, but that’s ok. As long as you are being your real and authentic self, its worth it… because The Only Person Who You Need To Be True To Is Yourself.

Have Integrity. Be Brave. Be Kind. That’s it!

Your Hebrew name Shifrah Emunah, means Beautiful Faith, And That’s one other thing: Without Faith We Are Nothing. Faith is that thing that says God has this! God has you and loves you, so if you believe in anything, my angel, Believe in Faith and Love.

Tayla: The Zen baby grew up… but she is still the young lady we go to for a gentle , Mom, dad, It will all be ok. She’s still smiling. In fact, there are so many times she makes us all laugh till our stomachs ache… She’s THAT funny.

Her Hebrew name, Nasiya Gabriella, translated in to English, means, Miracle Angel from God. As appropriate today as it was 12 years ago.

Tayla just radiates Joy. She is the natural athlete, the natural leader, the natural friend, THE NATURAL EVERYTHING!!!

Everything Tayla does feels inherently calm and confident and good. Tay, I believe God gave you the gift of Serenity, and my wish and wisdom for you is to remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson,

“ What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

I don’t need to tell YOU to be yourself (Awesome!!!) –You got that one down already… Or, Not to fear, You got that too-

BUT I will tell you from my life to…

Keep Shining That Light!

Be the Lighthouse in the darkness. Your ships will always come home!!!

To end this, This Marianne Williamson quote for both my girls, made famous by my personal hero, Nelson Mandela, in his Inaugural Speech:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Shabbat Shalom. I love you all!

And so, it went, and everyone in that tiny ‘Shul’ was crying! But, it was BEAUTIFUL, because it was REAL and authentic. And, I felt as if my heart had been cracked wide open and I’d given my girls the gift of honesty and integrity to be as open-hearted as you can be in this world. That was the only message I wanted to leave with my children, and everyone on that day, August 8th, 2015! I hope, I pray, I believe, WE DID IT!!

A few days after the party, I was walking on the beach and I found this shell… It perfectly mirrored a shell I had picked up almost 14 years ago on the beach in South Africa, when we were praying for a baby. It symbolizes Connection, Openness, and Miracles, and to me, yes, it looks like Angel Wings, because, well, because…

There Are Always Angels!





A Deep Breath of Peace…

26 05 2015

A few years ago I found myself in a very dark place. I had to acknowledge that I was in a deep depression.

This was hard for me. I was supposed to be the ‘healer’, the nurturer, the social worker, the rescuer, the giver… that was entirely the way I defined myself. But, suddenly, I wasn’t so ‘strong’ anymore. I was struggling in an emotional vortex of pain, hurt and desolation. No one could reach me in a place where I did not want to be reached.

I blamed many factors and many people for my so-called sadness. My family, my friends, my co-workers, everyone got blamed. I remember one day even blaming the woman I met in the grocery store whom I knew from my daughter’s school, but who didn’t seem to know me. I was mad! I was sad! I once remember explaining to my patient and kind husband that our emigration from South Africa to the USA ‘had broken me!’ BROKEN! He looked at me and said, ‘Then let’s do something to help you heal… ok?’

I guess that’s where Healing gets really personal. For some, it’s daily walks or going to the gym. For some it’s therapy. For some, it’s work. For me, it started with running a half marathon (something I told myself I could never do). Alone, out there, for miles and miles, I had long conversations with myself. I spoke to eagles flying high above and asked unseen Angels for help. I prayed a lot on those training walks and then runs. It was there and then that I found Peace and Courage. I realized how scared I was of life… even things like meeting a friend for coffee some days took Courage. Geez, just getting out of bed took courage. I made myself start to do the things that scared me. And, I’m still in Courage Training!

Next, I chose to surround myself with only good energy, and forgive those who had hurt me. I had to accept this one pivotal fact. It was really NEVER ABOUT ME!! People can do what they can do. Not everyone can be the friend you want them to be. And that’s ok. They are beautiful in their own Uniqueness and Imperfection. They have their own challenges and strengths and they too, deserve Kindness. Likewise, I worked hard at appreciation. I appreciated my husband’s love and friendship. I appreciated my sweet girls’ hugs and kisses, my friends who would do the nicest things for me. I appreciated my adorable puppy, my outdoor deck overlooking a peaceful greenbelt where I could read and write. I started to breathe it all in. Peace!!! My Life!

And there’s when I found Kindness (and with that I mean self-kindness). I do not want to be judged. Nor, do I want to judge. I want to be free to walk my own path, not someone else’s, and certainly not be stereotyped into any one thing. I’m not always nice. I’m not always happy or positive. I can be rude, sad, mean and unfriendly. I’m certainly not always brave or peaceful, But I’m trying. And you know what? WE ALL ARE!

Now, I know this for sure… in the words of the wise, Doe Zantamata,

“Without forgiveness and appreciation, it’s just another day to blame, another bad week, another missed chance, a heavy feeling in the heart. After Forgiveness and Appreciation, it’s another fresh start, another beautiful breeze, another season change, and a DEEP breath of PEACE inside your heart.”





Consciousness!

2 05 2015

CONCIOUS

Chief Seattle said, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

I’ve always been a humanitarian and a believer and a dreamer. And, I’ve always been a writer and a poet. I own these things about myself in the same way I own having brown hair and green eyes. I guess the thing that I do not always own is MY CONSCIOUSNESS. I’m about to explain what I mean by that in a moment…

You know how you wake up in the morning and you think, What a day! I have to “get through” this or that or a million things. And you feel yourself going on to autopilot. Autopilot is good, right. It steers you through the day like a big, powerful machine, with all the jet fuel you need to drive your ‘life’!

I am a master of auto-pilot, most days, but then something will pull me back into CONSCIOUSNESS. A rainbow. An eagle. A rose. A card from a friend. The hard things too- A devastating earthquake in Nepal, rioting, protests, kidnappings, death, destruction. When we FEEL SOMETHING it’s called being conscious. It’s a tiny little sliver of something called “White Light”. That moment when you know there is so much more to life than auto-pilot. My confession to you is that this is way easier said than done. Auto-pilot doesn’t care so much. That makes life a whole lot easier. But how much of the beauty do we miss out on when we go “unconscious”? Personally, I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work, people. All that really happens when you go unconscious is that you TRY to stop feeling. But, you still feel. You still care. You still feel your heart beating. Me personally, I cannot not care. I cannot walk away from a problem or situation without trying in some way to make it a little better. This means that my thread is a Thread. It matters to someone. It matters to me.

I think Chief Seattle had something there. I think he was telling us to realize that whatever we say, feel, do, has an impact. What are you feeling right in this moment? Who or what are you impacting? What consciousness do you want to embrace in your life? Do you want to do less autopilot and more pilot?

Let’s do this together. Consciousness is a beautiful thing. A lot like LIFE itself…A messy, swirling, dynamic expression of the TRUE BEAUTY of ALL THAT IS!!!





Tough as nails, the peaceful warrior

27 04 2015

“I walk onto this field every day without armor or weapons, by choice, and so the risk is that every once in a while, someone will shoot. It happens. It hurts. And it always, always makes me want to quit… Love is not warm or fuzzy or sweet or sticky. Real love is tough as nails. It’s having your heart ripped out, putting it back together, and the next day, offering it back to the same world that just tore it up. It’s running towards the pain, and grief and brokenness, instead of away from it.” Excerpt from Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton.

Dear friends,

When I was young I grew up believing that pain was a bad thing! A thing to be avoided at all costs. The problem for me was that I was often called an “oversensitive”, emotional child, so not only did I believe that feeling bad feelings was a bad thing, but also I apparently felt them more than others, so this made me a bad person too. My childhood was a good one, loving parents, a great brother, and friends. I had lots of friends, although I was never in the so called ‘popular’ group. This broke my heart. What was so different about me? Maybe if I was taller/prettier/smarter/funnier/more confident, I’d be more popular, right??? At the time, I didn’t realize that my greatest weakness was also my greatest strength. My sensitivity! A few years ago, someone identified the missing link, what I called IT. She called me an empath. An empath, really??? I remember saying, ‘I’d really rather be an athlete, or an artist, or a super-mom’. Please!! She laughed. Nope, Sharice, she said. You feel EVERYTHING, don’t you? You feel the highest joys and the lowest lows… you feel them for others too. Even strangers! Don’t you? Don’t you?

And that’s when I had my light bulb moment!!! I FEEL EVERYONE’s EVERYTHING!!

And so, I started this Running towards it. The pain doesn’t scare me, really. It’s the numbness that scares me. It’s not the opinions of others that scare me, it’s the ignorance that scares me. It’s not even the worst cruelty that scares me, it’s when the worst things we can do to each other are not even perceived as hurtful. It’s like broken is beautiful and perfection is the true enemy.

And so I pray for Grace. Never to judge the judgmental. Never to bully the bullies. Never to run away from who I am, even when it hurts. Because, The Peaceful Warrior runs towards the light, and along the way, she meets other Peaceful Warriors who are running in that direction too. Together, they carry on! They will run a marathon if they have to, carrying that BANNER of Love, Courage and Grace,  no matter how heavy it gets. No matter how tired, or sick, or SAD they get with the world, because my friends, the Peaceful Warrior is as tough as nails!





What’s on my mind…

2 01 2015

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2015.

I like to pretend sometimes that I can write. I know that I can’t, and I probably will never actually write the book I’ve been trying to write for four years now, but hey, it is really fun to come back to my blog every month (or two or three or five) and like an “old friend” I know really well, I get to sit a moment and gather all my thoughts together and do this, with a cup of coffee in my hands, I get to place the words on the page… which I guess you can call “writing” if you must.

Search and Rescue. Many people have been asking me about this. And all I want, is to do it supreme justice because it is so inexplicably special.

Let me backtrack a moment.

In February it will be 7 years since we packed up our home in Linksfield, Johannesburg. I still have a really hard time talking about ‘that day’! That day that an armed home invasion rocked our world to the core. That day that we were barricaded in our bedroom with two little girls. That day that police went through our home in bullet-proof vests, and later said to me: They may come back to finish off what they started. That day that I knew that we would leave South Africa forever. That day that my “home” became a very scary place.

I have a hard time talking about the day we arrived in Seattle. I had a roof over my head but suddenly the word “home” was empty. Really I did not know where my real home was, anymore. For many years I had a foot in the USA and a foot in South Africa. I became an “immigrant” and suddenly had all these connotations to deal with. I had no idea where to start. Every time something would happen that would make me feel sad I would hear myself saying, I just want to go home!

But’ then, slowly and steadily, home became where God had placed me… In Seattle, in my house, in my life, in my work.

I couldn’t get a job as a Social worker, and every other option felt like a sell-out. So I made a choice. What is on your mind?, my Facebook status update would ask me. Some days I got so mad. Why do you care what’s on my mind, I’d think. This is What’s On My Heart: I just want to love on some people but How? How? HOW? I’d rage. Then my friend said to me, Become a Life Coach! So I did! Then another friend said to me, Do The Birthday Project!! So I did. Then my mom suggested I make each day all about the kindness. Why only on your birthday, she asked? So I did. Then it got fun… because then I started helping other people do acts of kindness to celebrate, to honor, to remember, to grow. I became dear friends with the founder and global leader of TBP and Robyn inspired me to lead Seattle’s The Birthday Project chapter.

And then I heard about Union Gospel Mission. Their website says:

” Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission provides emergency care and long term recovery services to hurting and homeless people in the greater Seattle area. We’re dedicated to serving, rescuing and transforming those in greatest need through the grace of God”.

And so, on my 41st birthday, in lieu of birthday gifts, I asked people who loved me to donate to the mission instead. Cyril, the girls, and I drove into Seattle with a minivan packed to capacity with donations from so many wonderful friends. “Mom, this place is so amazing”, said my babies.

A few months later, I met my beautiful friend, Laney, who has done numerous Search and Rescues and after telling her about my deep passion for humanity and especially for those who are hurting, she said “Let’s do this!”. So I did.

One night was all it took. A van packed with food, socks, hot cocoa and clothes, blankets and hygiene products. A van that stops eight to ten times, volunteers who care about the homeless because they are “our friends”. I was hooked. I had finally come home!! What does that mean? Coming home?

It means: what is it that INSPIRES you, moves you, touches you. I met people like Richard, John, Keith, Kristine, Amy and so many more!! People who love other human beings unconditionally and deeply. I met people like Teresa and Adie and Amanda, and David and Detroit and others, who started to steal my heart, while at the same time teaching me that I do belong somewhere, because when I am out there serving there is nothing else more important to me in this world than THAT PERSON!!!

And then, this person (me) gets my heart all filled up with Love! The impact on following your passion and your compassion is like coming in from the cold . It’s like when someone places a blanket over you as you sleep, or when someone smiles at you and says “thank you”. That is coming home! Life is about finding the meaning and my homeless friends have helped me find mine!

Thank you to all THE Angels… YOU are on my mind!





Finding my religion

25 09 2014

Last year I wrote this post and once again, on this holy day, I sit here, writing, because writing is what I do when I get introspective (which seems to be a great deal of time as of late). And so they flow… My thoughts that is. Sometimes though, I forget that LIFE is a constant flow. Of good and bad, pain and sorrow, joy, failure and success. And IT IS! Being Jewish, or any religion for that matter, is more about the Spirit of Love than about anything else. It is more about Compassion and about Giving more than you can ever hope to receive in return. It is about introspection, humility and forgiveness. It is about hope, kindness and friendship toward all people. I have been through the greatest depths of what I feel as a human, a woman, a mother, a Jew, an immigrant and a spiritual being and It, really, simply, truly boils down to this one thing: In the magnificent words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “I am a Jew because despite suffering the greatest poverty, we aim to continue to help and fight for Justice for the oppressed, the disabled, and the prejudiced. We don’t do this for praise or congratulation, but because it’s a mitzvah… because a Jew could do no less. And we continue to teach this to our children, we look for these moments within our own families and outside in the world.” That is what I want written down one day as my legacy on Earth, “Because She Cared!” That is all!

AngelWings

So I just returned home from possibly the very most beautiful and uplifting Jewish High Holy Day (Rosh Hashanah) service I have attended in all my 40 years. It took me 40 years to be in a Synagogue and to actually feel something deeply. A very dear friend and one of our community leaders was leading this service and as she praised God with magnificent singing, storytelling and prayers, it struck me. Suddenly I didn’t feel like such an ‘orphan’ in a strange land anymore. Suddenly I didn’t feel self conscious or out of my depth anymore. I looked around me. No one cared what I was or wasn’t wearing, no one was there to be seen or to earn brownie points, there were no cliques of people talking amongst themselves. Everyone had a light around them. Every single person, young or old, rich or poor, happy or sad, was being raised up by…

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